Magnus Wallin (b. 1965) studied at The Royal Danish Art Academy in Copenhagen between 1989-95. It was a vibrant time in Danish art life as well as in the Swedish. The traditional modernist fundaments were under siege. Wallin, together with Jens Haaning, responded to the zeitgeist with the installation “Watch out” (2013/1997/1994), in which the visitor (safely) would stand in between two, barking and scary looking chained watchdogs. In Mousse Magazine (#51, 2015), “Watch out” is mentioned as an urgent and important work in the section “1985–1995 Exhibition views”.

Link: Watch out

Before the group exhibition “The End of the World & A Principle of Hope” at Kunsthaus Zürich (1999), in which Wallin participated, he met the curator of the show, Harald Szeemann. It led to continued collaboration in the group exhibitions “Plateau of Humankind” at the 49th Biennale di Venezia (2001) and “The Joy of My Dreams” at 1st International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Sevilla (2004) where he was represented.

“EXIT” (1996) was Magnus Wallin’s first 3D animated film. It had premiere 1997 at “The Louisiana-exhibition: “New Art from Denmark and Skåne” at Louisiana Museum of Moderna Art. It is a compressed story about the historical vulnerability of the defective. As documentary reference, the eight characters’ bodily defects come from sketches by Hieronymus Bosch (15th century). Wallin continued making 3D animated films, for example exhibited in “Instrument” at Millesgården in Stockholm (2009) curated by Isabella Nilsson, in which he presented “Colony” (2009) and “Mission” (2009).

Link: EXIT

In the film “Elements” (2011), Wallin continues his view on how we value and look upon the human body. The ordered bodies of medical history fall from the sky, dissected as object form. Horse-like characters bring the body parts together into a circular formation, like a merry-go-round. It is a carnivalesque totentanz of pain and desire, descending against the actual. The 3D animation opened new ways to express his artistic practice, and between 1996 to 2011 Wallin produced eleven narrative 3D animated films, among others, shown in the exhibitions “Medicine and Art: Imagining a Future for Life and Love” at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2009) curated by Nanjo Fumio; “Egofugal, 7th International Istanbul Biennial” (2001) curated by Yuko Hasegawa; “Plateau of Mankind 49th Venice Biennial” (2001) curated by Harald Szeemann.

Link: Elements

In his 3D animations, Wallin often returns to the idea of the existence of a painless utopian state, like the vision of a paradise. Wallin points out that such vision includes aesthetic consequences – the irregularity that don’t fit in creates actual pain, something he compare with society’s rational approach in the creation of the concept of norm. What is not norm is perceived as unfamiliar, or somewhat defective, and the consequence becomes to exterminate and destroy it.

In his object-based works and site-specific projects from later years, Wallin aspires to work in the scale 1:1. It is a real relation to the bodily scale, for example blood, which is something pregnant and real, and that he has been using in numerous works, for example in the exhibition “THE SUPERSURREALISM at Moderna Museet Malmö (2012) curated by John Peter Nilsson, and “GRAVITY” (2014) in which he implemented the site-specific work “Film” (2014), at the Kalmar Art Museum in Sweden. With a sweeping movement he applied blood on the building’s monumental windows – a spatial densification of dried blood that changed the room to an inward-looking perspective.

Link: Film

In the series “Are you in pain … Not anymore” (2016) he has applied layers of blood powder bound with acrylic on aluminum panels. At the dimensions 79.5 x 79.5 the format of the works refers to Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square of 1915. The layers have then been polished down to leave an almost completely unblemished smooth surface. From a distance they resemble jet black monochromes, free from connections to the outer world, entirely in line with Malevich’s Suprematist manifesto.

Link: Are you in pain … Not anymore

The contrast between the strict format, the seemingly clinical surfaces, and the actual roughness of the blood results in a both figurative and literal proxy for the human body. In the series the bone fragments draw attention back to the surface and act as concentrated reference points for the viewer, emphasizing its corporeal presence. With conceptual accuracy and precision, Wallin refers to the subject’s conditions in relation to the consequences of utopian actions (i.e.suprematism), usually referred to as actions “in the name of humanity”, but something Wallin challenge by asking – to what prize!?

The 1:1 perspective is also found in works based on objects taken from the human body. The use of such objects, and sometimes the objects themselves, can be traced to anatomical teaching models, for example “METHOD V” (2014) where five abstract forms are cut out on the head of five human craniums. “Whiteboard” (2016) contrasts the whiteboard as a symbol for clinical explanation with human legs and teeth – a memento mori of our mortality. In “SMILEY” (2016) he continues the melancholic approach into black comedy. On a wall are human hip bones and spine attached as a “smiley” symbol that grins at our mortal existence, shown at an exhibition at The Zachete National Gallery of Art, Warszawa (2015) curated by Anda Rottenberg and in SEVEN MONOCHROMES AND A SMILEY at Oslo Kunstforening, (2016) curated by Marianne Hultman.


Link: Whiteboard

Link: Smiley

Lately Magnus Wallin has returned to animations. “Echo” (2021) is a 2D,3D animated film installation, exhibited first time in “Art Odyssey 2021” Serlachius Museums in Finland (2021) curated by Kimmo Schroderus. The core imagery comes from photographic high-resolution documentation of the inside of a cranium whose contents have been consumed. In the close-ups of the material, traces of handling and removal, can be detected. 

The animation of this imagery transforms the contents and creates something more corporeal. The work is projected vertically to emphasize its sculptural qualities. In the calm motion of the camera this transformation mediates over man’s own matter and scale, in a silent echo, in the event of space in darkness and light. The skull that was once hollowed out is made whole here in its own space.

Link: Echo

John Peter Nilsson